The following is an excerpt from a new book about the story of Black Wall Street in Tulsa Oklahoma. We’re happy to offer this to our readers in this time of social change in our country. Kristy Archer is an african american writer that started writing after one of her loved ones died from gun violence. The depression made her mute, and the only way she could communicate was through her writing. Two years ago she found out about the event of Black Wall Street and devoted her life to showing people the truth of what happened in 1921. Now with the book published, she travels around and teaches people about historical events that are washed under the rug. Follow Kristy Archer on Instagram and Twitter.
“The most destructive element in the human mind is fear. Fear creates aggressiveness; aggressiveness engenders hostility; Hostility engenders fear, a disastrous circle.” –Dorothy Thompson
Do you remember me?, I was captive for thirty years. I was the guy that had to watch his whole family die because they didn’t meet quota. I watched you rape my wife on many occasions, and ended up delivering your child. I was the guy who had to kill that same baby because you didn’t want your wife Diane to find out you were sleeping with the slaves. I was the guy you beat because I wanted my freedom, I wanted a better life, I wanted happiness but I couldn’t have that. After working for you for thirty years, I received over a million stitches and a hundred and twelve scars. I remember walking in pools of blood because I had to drag friends and family to unmarked graves. Master never once out of the thirty years have you addressed me as “sir”, but I’ve must have called you that over a billion times.
I did horrible things to make you satisfied, and I was never appreciated. Remember when you cut my face because your wife fancied me. She ordered me to come off the fields to sleep with her, and you came in there yelling. You told me “I’ll never be pretty to another woman again,” and sliced my face up. You know after that, my kids couldn’t even look at me because I gave them nightmares. Working on your plantation made me a demon, every day I went against my morals for you. Then I became free and had to live with all the horrible stuff you made me do. I can still hear the screams from your child as I snapped his neck, but did you know you had two babies after that. Yeah, my wife had twins and we hid the children from you; they are grown, healthy, and well taken care of. I wake up everyday to them calling me dad, and them telling me how much they love me.
So now that I’m free, I’m going to take everything you have or have always wanted. That house, plantation, car, and the land is all going to be mine. I’m going to take your wealth, your future and your happiness just like you did to me. I’m going to make you watch your family die as you starve. I’m going to torture, rape, abuse, and slaughter everyone you love because that’s what you did to me.
Master, it could have been different, but you made me this way. Your laugh still sits in my mind today, I can’t even look at my face or scars. I want you to know that I’m coming, it might not be today or tomorrow but you will die by my hand. Actually, as you read this, I’m at the front door. I know you’re sitting in the office, I’m halfway up the stairs. Before you have even gotten this far in the letter, I know I would have already killed you by now. I’ll see you in hell, but before I go I’ll enjoy my new plantation.
Sincerely, Slave 317”
In 1889, A man named Ottawa W. Gurley did just that, he took his wealth and built an empire for black people. Growing up his parents were slaves and he watched them pick cotton every day. The sound, screams, the smell lingered in his head for a long time as he grew up. Once his family became free in January of 1865, they went off and worked for themselves. They slaved every day so Ottawa could have a better life, then white people came and took it away. By this time Ottawa was a grown man and he wanted more; he took everything he ever had and went on a “land grab”. These were auctions rich people went on, and they went state to state buying as much land as possible. The next land grab was in Oklahoma, everyone wanted it because it was sitting on a gold mine. Oil was everywhere in the state, and whoever got it knew they would be set for life. So on April 22, the men arrived in Oklahoma to begin the bidding. Out of a hundred men, only four black people stood in the crowd. While Ottawa counted his money, he listened to everyone talk about what they’re going to do with the property once they got it. He could see his future as he looked across the field. He saw buildings, houses, hospitals, schools and his parents no longer working. He could see his mom eating like royalty, while his dad sat like a king. Ottawa knew Oklahoma was going to be the place that set him free. When the auctioneer arrived, the men crowded around to listen.
“Good morning gentlemen, today we will be selling land in the state of Oklahoma. You know the rules, we bid until we can’t no more. Good luck to you all and let’s begin,” he said.
Ottawa stood in the back while he watched the men bid on the property. He wanted everyone to think they were going to win before he stepped in. Then his chance came, the auctioneer began to slow down and the guy in the red hat had the last bid at fourteen thousand dollars.
“We’re at fourteen, do I hear more?,” the auctioneer said.
“Twenty thousand dollars,” Ottawa said with his hand raised.
The men in the crowd stood baffled, they couldn’t believe a Negro just outbid a white person.
“Going once, going twice, sold to the black man in the back,” the auctioneer yelled.
As the men walked away with their heads down, Ottawa stood there in pride. He could see his vision coming to life, he couldn’t wait to bring his family to Oklahoma. This is mine he thought. While he stared at his new land, the auctioneer came to collect the money.
“So, what are you going to do with forty acres of land?,” he asked.
“Build an empire,” Ottawa said.
Over the next twenty years, Ottawa spent his time building Greenwood. Out of thirty-six blocks, he managed to build everything a black person needs. There were clubs, hospitals, barbershops, restaurants, apartments and many more; for the first time in years, black people had something that belonged to them. Greenwood was their empire and eventually, it got invaded. The economic status was superb and people didn’t like that. When it got to the point where black people were buying their old master properties, the Ku Klux Klan stepped in. They terrorized Greenwood, but they needed one reason to burn it down. When May 31st arrived, it was like Christmas, Hanuka, New years and Easter for white people. They burnt everything to a crisp just to be powerful again. Everything Ottawa ever built, was destroyed in one day. This is the story about how a king lost his palace.